At 6991', McGuire Mountain is the highest summit in NW Montana's Salish Mountains. Because of this, and the fact that the lookout can be rented from the KNF, McGuire Mountain sees a lot of human traffic. The day we summitted we could not enter the lookout as it was occupied by overnighters. As we hiked out, we met the next incoming party on the trail that had reserved it for two nights. In my estimation, McGuire sees more human activity than any other summit in the Salish, with the exception of Blacktail Mountain Ski Resort.
Beginning of trail from parking area
Parking area from trail
Drive 35.6 miles north on Hwy 93 from downtown Whitefish. Turn left at the "Trego" sign just past Dickey Lake. Drive 2.9 miles through "downtown Trego" and then turn left on #36 (Fortine Creek Rd). Drive 3.28 miles to Edna Creek Road (#433) and turn right. This road is paved for the first 8 miles...after driving 16.5 miles there is an intersection with FS Road #1900...turn left here. After 1.3 miles on #1900 there is another intersection. Go straight here and the road changes to FS Road #494...stay on this road for 4.1 miles until you arrive at the saddle between Sutton Mountain and Little Sutton Mountain and park. The last 1.2 miles of this road up to the saddle is very rocky...proceed with caution...and you should have good tires.
Trail #446 starts out by switchbacking up the south side of Little Sutton Mountain 6654'. This is easy hiking on a well-maintained trail. Initially gaining 255' to the highest point on the switchbacks, you lose 218' down to the saddle between Little Sutton and McGuire. Before losing that elevation you get glimpses of Sutton Mountain, the second highest summit in the Salish Mountains at 6872', through the trees...picture below.
If you stay on the trail, as we did, you will hike for 2.69 miles gaining a total of 808' in elevation. The trail seems to un-necessarily circle around and up behind the lookout instead of approaching it dead-on, making the slog up the trail longer than needed. Trail #446 also continues over the summit to the NW, so that McGuire can also be approached from a trailhead in that direction also.
For a shorter and more interesting route to the summit than the trail slog...try the following. Leave the trail at the area pictured below and enjoy a series of easy and fun Class 2 small rock walls interspersed with some rocky meadows. We descended this route and wished we had taken it up to the summit also.
ABOVE PHOTO BY THE LEVITATOR
Camping and RedTape
McGuire Mountain is located in the Kootenai National Forest which is bear country. Don't hike alone, make noise as you hike, and carry bear spray and know how to use it. The Salish Mountains are chock full of healthy-sized black bears and the occasional grizzly.
A map of the Kootenai National Forest is also very helpful in negotiating the many FS Roads in the Salish Mountains, and the various ways to reach the summit of McGuire. Bug repellent is an absolute necessity in Montana in June and July. Water was available on this hike from a small run-off crossing the trail just before reaching the lookout, however, late in the summer this could be dry...use a filter if you obtain water here.
McGuire is one of four named summits on a long boomerang-shaped ridge. On a long summer day it would be very possible to summit all four of these McGuire, Little Sutton, Sutton and Lydia. You also might be able to throw in Pinkham located just to the SE, for good measure.
McGuire Mountain's restroom facilities and the open-door views to the east.